Providentialism is a belief found within the Peonian church. It is currently considered heterodox, but debates over the acceptability of Providentialism are far from over. In fact, the movement seems to be growing, slowly but surely.
The basic belief of Providentialism is that Peoni is so utterly powerful in every way that humans cannot possibly equal her abilities. The logical conclusion of this belief is that Peoni's plans for humans, both negative and positive, are essentially beyond the control of humans. Because Peoni always has humans' best interests at heart, this means that humans who worship Peoni are largely headed for good destinies.
However, although Peoni's power is effectively infinite in comparison with that of mere humans, she does mediate her plans. This she does through rewarding, to some small extent, those who are loyal to her, while punishing those who are unrepentant. She of course practices a good deal of forgiveness herself, but she does have her limits. Thus, for most Providentialists, humans must continue to be good Peonians or risk losing the destiny for which one is previously destined.
The tendency among Providentialists, however, is to be fairly deterministic. What Peoni has deemed as our futures will be just that. A corrolary of this is that Providentialists tend to see humanity as having a similar destiny. "The Meadows [of Valon] are for Everyone" is a common saying among Providentialists. This belief is occasionally used to excuse extreme or even sinful action -- those who are destined for good things will go there in any case, and a single action by a human being is surely nothing compared to the absolute bounty of blessings from Peoni. Peoni provides for all of us, and even if she doesn't, there is nothing we can do to change this.
Similarly, those who have the arrogance to assume that they have power over their own destinies are committing as grave a crime as those who murder. In fact, they may be committing a worse crime, because while murder sends a person to Valon ever faster, committing a crime against Peoni herself is completely reprehensible and unforgiveable. Thus, those who pretend to have control over their own destinies may in fact require conversion to save them -- it is the duty of the strict Providentialist to save them before they can destroy their share in Peoni's providence.
A final corollary of the basics of Providentialist belief is that magic is an extreme form of moral impurity. Anyone who presumes to control nature by themself is in dire need of correction.
Within the stream of Providentialism is an extreme faction, usually called Gallerism (after its founder -- see below). This sect says that human destiny is not at all within the hands of humans. There is simply nothing we can do to change our destinies. We should still express our gratefulness to Peoni by doing good acts, but we are not actually required to do so in any pragmatic way. Those who are destined for good things have been so-destined since birth. In fact, Gallerists would have it that those who do good things in this life do so because they are destined for good things, not the other way around. This sect is generally suppressed within the overall Providentialist current. There are one or two extreme factions within the Gallerists which hold that the best way to treat one's fellow human beings is to allow them to partake of Valon immediately -- by killing them.
Also, this brings up another corollary. Because Peoni is the ultimate arbiter of the Earth, as well as of the land on it, it is a moral crime to assume that one has ownership of land. For the most extreme of Gallerists, the feudal lords, cavorting about as if they own the land on which they work, are demons; the best thing one can do for one of these people is to liberate them from their delusions by reclaiming their lands in the name of the Lady, but if they are resistant, killing them is preferable to allowing them to commit their moral crimes.
Probably the most important ritual associated with Providentialism is simply chanting, over and over, "I am grateful to my Lady." More elaborate rituals exist, but there is a strong trend in Providentialism to using the very minimum possible in ritual.
The beliefs of Providentialism has been around in one form or another (though not with the same name) for centuries, and has in fact been found among churches other than that of Peoni. However, the belief as it is now known is closely associated with the life of Manthrys of Kollorath. Manthrys was the Avasana of the Irreproachable Order's temple in Areshones from 619-649. His date of birth is unknown, and indeed much of his early history is obscure. The reasons behind this obscurity are themselves obscure. It is known, however, that he was approximately 40 when he first began serving in the temple. He served in the temple until his death, and although his fame gradually grew, he never forsook his position as Avasana.
Besides cataloging books, he synthesized several of the texts he had read. In 631, he felt that his studies were advanced enough to commit them to writing. He began writing the book which is now called the Providentialist Papers. After 635, the book was largely completed, and several copies found their way outside he temple. The Papers became increasingly popular, and several priests in the surrounding communities requested advice from him. In 636, students began coming to him to study. However, he continued his studies, resolving not to teach anyone who was so headstrong as to request teaching, and student after student was sent away unsatisfied. He continued to allow his book to be copied, though, at the orders of his Pelnala.
In 642, a solitary pilgrim came to visit him. The pilgrim, Galler of Konthil, did not speak a word. Manthrys was only able to ascertain Galler's name through written questioning. Galler simply did cleaning and other chores, occasionally listening in on Manthrys' conversations with himself.
Finally, in 647, Galler uttered his first word in Manthrys' presence. Manthrys was pondering a particularly difficult question (how it is that people have the perception that they have choice, if in fact they do not), mumbling to himself. Galler simply said, "The Lady's power is deeper than mere perception." Manthrys saw that, in fact, Galler had a better understanding of his beliefs than did any of the students who came to him. From that day forward, Galler was Manthrys' sole student.
In 649, Manthrys died of old age, chanting the familiar "I am grateful to my lady." He is considered a saint among some churches, but this varies -- among some churches, and within certain bishoprics, even the mention of Manthrys' name is heresy.
Galler was deemed to be Manthrys' successor. However, the jealous Pelnala of the time ignored Manthrys' wishes and had someone else installed in their place. Galler was offered a place in which to sleep for the night, but nothing more. He took to wandering.
Galler's wanderings spread his belief far and wide. In 653 he coined the term Providentialism (previously, the beliefs had simply been called "The teachings on Manthrys," and this name is still used, even for Galler's beliefs). He also called upon all people to realize the solitary truth of Peoni's providence. He had not yet, however, decided that Peoni's providence was absolute -- the sect named after him was only begun in the later years of his life.
In the late 650's, Galler wandered ever further north. He is reknowned for having crossed the Karetan plain, as a battle was raging. When he reached the mid-point, he began preaching, and soon, both sides laid down their weapons and followed in his train. He reached Shorkyne in 658, followed by a train of over a thousand devoted followers. After spreading his message there, he resolved to cross the sea to Harn and bring people to the correct way there, where the mistaken belief in magic was strongest.
In 660, he and his followers sailed in four ships from Eshapel. A small monument facing the harbor marks the event.
As he reached the half-way point, though, an enormous storm rose up. His ships were lost; only three survivors lived to tell of what happened. They related that, as the storm rose up and their deaths became imminent, Galler began chanting, ever louder, "I am grateful to my Lady." At first, his chanting could barely be heard by those on board, but gradually, as death became not only imminent but unavoidable, the sailors and followers joined in. Their harmonic chanting became eerily beautiful; many sailors report hearing, as they cross the Straits, the ethereal chanting of a chorus, praising their Lady as a group.
Although Galler was himself lost, his teaching lived on. The exact root of Gallerism is unclear; the earliest records indicate that, before he sailed for Melderyn, Galler dictated his current (and of course final) thoughts to his three closest followers who were staying behind. However, the exact source of the sect which bears his name is uncertain.
Although Gallerism and Providentialism in general did not reach Harn immediately, they gradually trickled in. A major shipment of Providentialist canonical texts was sent to Thay in 694; no one currently knows (or admits to knowing) the location of the original copies. Providentialist texts are currently on the list of prohibited items for the Melderyn port authorities.
Generally speaking, the teaching of Providentialism is rare in Harn. Most Peonian priests have yet to hear of it, especially in the west. Most bishops, who have vested interests in the maintenance of the status quo and, moreover, still believe in the traditional form of Peonianism, are highly opposed to Providentialism. The Doctors are planning to discuss the issue of Providentialism when they meet in Aleath in 722.
Of course, the primary upholders of Providentialism are wandering priests. Many style themselves prophets, speaking out against the nobility and the organized church. Some are full- fledged priests of Peoni; others consider themselves qualified by nature of their recognition of Peoni's power, and consider stronger qualifications to be a sign of selfishness. Most are careful not to provoke a reaction from the powers-that-be, and seek to spread their beliefs only by subtle means.
There are exceptions, though. The most notable one was in 719, in the village of Ilym (near Zoben Keep in Kaldor), when a priest managed to provoke a rebellion amongst the peasants. After a particularly bad harvest, a Providentialist priest named Imrol led the villagers in killing the bailiff. The mob had marched halfway to Alesen before they were forcibly stopped by a force from Zoben. Imrol was killed along the roadside. The knight in charge of the force which killed him ordered Imrol's body to be buried in an unmarked grave, lest he become a martyr. Ilym is still something of a pilgrimage destination for Providentialists, though, and the locals tend to be Providentialist in their views.
Also, one or two Sulapyns have been somewhat swayed by the Providentialists, mainly because they see it as a way to increase their own power. Many Pelnalas and lower-level members of the Peonian clergy have also moved towards the Providentialist way of seeing things.